Hermeneutics Study


For those who may not be familiar with the term, “hermeneutics” refers to “the branch of knowledge that deals with interpretation, especially of the Bible or literary texts.” Everyone who reads the Bible (or any other literary document) has a hermeneutic, a way of determining the meaning of what he or she is reading. It may be a valid hermeneutic or it may be an invalid one. It may enable the reader to correctly understand what he or she is reading or it may lead the reader to wrong conclusions.

The Bible is a book given to mankind by God and intended by Him to be understood and obeyed (cf. Matthew 7:21). The apostle Paul pointed out “. . . how that by revelation He (God, hf) made known to me the mystery (as I wrote before in a few words, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge of the mystery of Christ)” (Ephesians 3:3-5, emphasis mine, hf). Later he urged, “Therefore do not be unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). Of the Bereans it was said, “These were more noble than those of Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Obviously, the Bereans were able to understand the Scriptures and to compare the preaching they heard with the Scriptures they read to see if the preaching was true. We can and should do the same today! The Bible is not just for preachers and theologians with high-flung degrees from a university or seminary. Common, ordinary people can read and understand the Bible, just as they can read and understand any other book.

Recently, I have been perplexed and deeply troubled by what I can only label a hermeneutic of infidelity – a way of reading and “understanding” the Bible that actually leads to disbelief of it as a sensible, harmonious, and understandable revelation from God. On an August 5, 2017 Facebook posting by an alleged gospel preacher, quoting Rob Bell, who identifies himself as “teaching pastor at Mars Hill Church in Grandville, Michigan,” it was stated: “Other times people want to know the right answer to a passage in the Bible. As if there is a right and a wrong reading of each verse in the Bible. There are, of course, lots of ways to miss the point and truly read it wrongly. But to say that there’s a right way may unnecessarily limit your reading of the Bible.”

The post affirmed that reading the Bible is like examining a gem by continually turning it so as to view its various aspects, seeing things in each aspect that were not seen in the others. It should go without saying that we never get too old to learn from the word of God. That is why we need to read it over and over. The more we study the Bible the more we will see in it, but the truths of Scripture do not contradict each other but rather complement each other.

The preacher making the Facebook post is a defender of homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and transgenderism and has been bald-faced enough to say that the Bible indorses such behavior. His contention is that as one continues to examine the texts that speak of homosexuality and “turns these gems,” he is led to see that the Bible really does not condemn these kinds of activities but commends them as being only diverse lifestyles that reflect the diversity of God Himself! In so doing this preacher has become guilty of the very thing the apostle Peter spoke of when he said of the letters of the apostle Paul, “. . . which those who are untaught and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (II Peter 3:16). Similarly, as the defenders of the grossest kind of immorality imaginable “turn these gems” of inspired Scripture they “twist (wrest, KJV; ASV) [them] to their own destruction” and the destruction of their biblically ignorant and gullible followers!

Once again I ask, if homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and transgenderism are not sinful, from what were those who practiced these things washed, for what were they sanctified, and from what were they justified (I Corinthians 6:9-11)? Paul put them in the same category with fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, thieves, covetous, and drunkards. But the hermeneutic of infidelity will permit an “understanding” of the preceding text that will make all of the things mentioned acceptable behavior! Who can believe it?!

The sad reality is that today among many professed Christians there is a hermeneutic that is intended to accommodate to and compromise with the standards of the world and the ever changing culture around us. By liberals and progressives the Bible is being read and interpreted in such a fashion as to allow for homosexuality, marriage, divorce, and remarriage for any “reason,” the imbibing of alcoholic beverages, sexually provocative dress by women, women preachers, baptism by any action (falsely called “mode”) and for any purpose, as well as a host of other doctrines and practices not approved by the word of God. The distinctiveness of biblical doctrine and the Christian lifestyle no longer means much (if anything) to a growing number of professed followers of Christ! Their thinking seems to be, “The more like the world we can be, the better!”

A number of years ago, a former gospel preacher whose “journey of freedom” (as such people like to describe their wandering from the truth) has now led him to the ranks of the Unitarians/Universalists (via the Disciples of Christ), said to me, “Hugh, the Bible is wrong about many things.” Among other infidel views, he believed texts of the Bible could be interpreted to mean that everybody would eventually be saved and therefore there was no need for hell. (No wonder he eventually wound up in the camp of the Unitarians and Universalists). He has succumbed to a hermeneutic of infidelity. Sadly, he was not the first to do so, nor will he be the last. Others continue that so-called “journey of freedom” – freedom from the restraints of God’s word, and a journey that eventually leads to infidelity.

All of us are going to finally be judged before God by the standard of His revealed will as set forth in the Scriptures (John 12:48; Romans 2:16). God would be exceedingly unfair and unjust (and He is neither) to require mankind to believe, obey, live by, and eventually be judged by a message that cannot be understood! Instead of excusing ourselves by saying we cannot understand the Bible, we need to begin reading it and coming to a knowledge of God’s will for our lives as set forth in that divinely inspired book.